Climbing Penshaw Monument at Night

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Sometimes an opportunity to climb to the top of Sunderland’s (in)famous 450ft high Monument styled on an ancient Greek Temple in the dark is just too good not to take up. For someone like me, anyway. I’d pretty much avoided taking any photographs of Pensher Monument (built in 1844) in at least ten years of my night time excursions around the City, always thought it a bit too obvious really – there’s countless photos of it at various times of day and night, summer and winter. Nowt wrong with that, but not for me.


However, I had long harboured an ambition to climb to the walkway that sits at the top of the Monument – this had fascinated me since I found out as a child that there was access to the top. Reached via a spiral staircase inside one of the columns, the walkway had been closed since 1926 after a young lad fell to his death, but in 2011 National Trust decided to make it safe and trial open it again. Demand was overwhelming and as a result people can visit the top at certain times throughout the year for a small fee.


Anyway, long story short I managed to arrange a night time visit to take some photos. After a tight squeeze up the narrow staircase with a few too many cameras and tripods I was presented with a superb dusk, and then night, view of County Durham and Sunderland. Ambition achieved!


A couple of things I hadn’t realised was that there are a number of narrow slits in the column where the stairway is, presumably to allow daylight in rather than to enable tie firing of bow and arrow to see off attackers from Tyneside. No use at night, mind. And also that the rest of the columns are hollow – who knows what could be encased within any or all of them!

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